The Arizona Cardinals wrapped up their three-game home stand edging the Tennessee Titans 12-7 Sunday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium behind four Phil Dawson field goals. With the win the Cards improve to 6-7. The Titans drop to 8-5.
Here are five things we learned Sunday afternoon in Glendale.
1. Let’s Get Defensive…On a day when the offense mostly sputtered, James Bettcher’s defense picked up the slack and kept the Cards slim playoff hopes alive. After allowing a second quarter touchdown, Arizona pitched a second half shutout and did just enough to secure the win. “Can’t say enough about the defense,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “It was a true team effort. I couldn’t be prouder of the guys.” The Titans managed just 82 yards of total offense in the second half. Leading rusher DeMarco Murray had just 34 yards on 11 carries.
2. Big Red Line…The Cards’ offensive front was tested again Sunday by Tennessee, despite playing without top pass rusher and sack leader Derrick Morgan who was inactive. Arizona had just 16 total yards in the first quarter (64 at halftime) and Blaine Gabbert was under heavy pressure much of the first half as Tennessee recorded four sacks before intermission. That number doubled to eight total for the game but Gabbert and his group finished with 314 yards despite missing several big “chunk plays,” particularly from Gabbert who was under duress on nearly every pass play. “I feel great,” Gabbert said when asked about taking all the hits. “Everything feels better when you get a win.” No Adrian Peterson again for Arizona who missed his second-straight game with a neck injury. Kerwin Williams was steady with 73 yards on 20 carries.
3. The Legend Of Larry Grows…Another week, another milestone for future Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald. “Fitz” reeled in a 23-yard reception early in the third quarter to pass Randy Moss for third on the all-time receiving yardage list. He trails only Terrell Owens (15,934) and the iconic Jerry Rice (22,895). “I don’t have any of those [physical] gifts that he has,” Fitzgerald said with a smile referring to Moss. “Some of the stuff he did you just marveled because he was just so physically dominating.” Fitzgerald finished with five catches for 44 yards. He was targeted a team-high seven times.
4. Next Men Up…In a season ravaged by injury, young offensive skill players Chad Williams and Elijha Penny provided a spark on the Cards’ first go-ahead drive of the game midway through the fourth quarter. The rookie Williams, a third-round pick from Grambling, had a 33-yard jet sweep which helped flip field position and kick-start the drive. A few plays later Penny took a short pass from Gabbert in the flat and picked up 18 yards down the Tennessee sideline which led to Dawson’s third field goal.
5. Sack Master…the career year for outside linebacker Chandler Jones continues. He was once again a menace, making frequent visits to the Titans’ backfield. He became the fifth player in franchise history to record at least 14 sacks and now sits just 2.5 sacks behind Simeon Rice for the team record (16.5). “Our defense really stepped up,” Jones explained after the game. “Guys are just making plays left and right.” Jones added three total tackles-for-loss in the first half. He has at least one sack in 11 of 13 games played this season.
The Cards will travel cross-country to take on the Redskins next Sunday.